The final part of Manchester’s forgotten Georgian heritage again focuses on a former domestic properties. However unlike the other two posts about 67-71 Princess Street and 35 King Street, the three properties on Bradley Street (numbers 4,6 & 8) were built for the working classes and were effectively overcrowded slum housing and therefore it is a miracle they have even survived into the twenty-first century.
69 – 77 Lever Street
When conducting my research into the history of Bradley Street, I found I had to begin on the street that runs parallel with it, Lever Street.
Following the expansion of the city in the 18th century into fashionable ‘zones’, Sir Ashton Lever of Alkrington Hall, near Rochdale began to sell his land to developers in the area known as Ancoats/’Northern Quarter’ in Manchester. This part of the city had already been built on some years earlier by William Stevenson. However Stevenson’s middle class housing was not so popular and many houses remained vacant, even the church-fronted Stevenson Square.
In 1787, a well-to-do plasterer Mr. Bradley (his first name seems to be disputed, I’ve seen it recorded as both Charles and William) built the elegant fronted Numbers 69-77 Lever Street (see above). Unfortunately as this area was still unfashionable with Manchester’s wealthier residents, only one of the townhouses was inhabited by one household. The rest of the properties were designed as tenement homes, some of them had loom workshops on the top floors and at the rear of the properties, to preserve the elegant facade of Lever Street.
Soon after the construction of the properties, two-storey additions were added to the rear of the properties, as the demand for cheaper housing rose in the booming city. Within a few years further additions were added onto these, three small single storey ‘cottages’, some with cellars opening onto Bradley Street. The entrances to the ‘cottages’ behind was in a small yard, with the gate opening onto Bradley Street (named after Mr. Bradley). Therefore there was 6 very small residences built of orange-red brick in an English garden bond, which all were jumbled on top of each other, sharing walls and all built without proper ventilation or sanitation.
Numbers 4, 6, 8 Bradley Street
These properties on Bradley Street were originally inhabited by skilled artisans and were actually slightly larger than other similar properties at the time. However with the birth of the industrial revolution, these fine old occupations were swept away by machinery and Bradley Street became home to some of Manchester’s poorest working class people.
What was life in Manchester like in the late 18th and early 19th century for our residents of Bradley Street? In 1802 the poet Robert Southey visited Manchester and this was his judgment:
” Imagine this multitude crowded together in narrow streets, the houses all built of brick and blackened with smoke; frequent large buildings among them where you hear from within the everlasting din of machinery and where when the bells rings it is to call the wretches to their work instead of to their prayers. Imagine this and you have the materials of a picture of Manchester.”
In my past two blog posts exploring Manchester’s Georgian heritage, the trend in the city meant that by the mid-nineteenth century the 18th century townhouses were too close to the noise, pollution and poverty of the city centre and the wealthy retreated further away, their properties being turned into offices or banks for example.
However on Bradley Street, the cheap housing in close proximity to places of work would have still appealed to those trying to earn a living. The 1851 census reveals just how over-crowded the houses were.
There are two entries recorded for Number 4 Bradley Streets in the 1851 census remember that two ‘cottages’ backed onto each other, one at the front on Bradley Street and the other at the rear with side access but both shared an address. In one property is: 50 year old widow Ann Mortimer and her children 22 year old Richard, 20 year old Jane and 18 year old Maria. The Mortimer family was Irish and lived in Manchester since at least 1841. Richard Mortimer was a labourer and his sisters worked in cotton mills. Edward Bawer is a lodger living with the family. The 1861 census reveals that the Mortimer family are still living at Number 4 Bradley Street.
Also in Number 4 is Matthew Hodgson and his wife Mary and their young children Martha, David and James. Matthew’s occupation is listed as a boatsman, probably on Manchester’s vast canal and river network.
At Number 6 is George Burrows, a hawker by trade and his wife Sarah and their children; Thomas, Mary Ann, Eliza and George. Also listed under Number 6 is Samuel Goodwin, who at 68 is still working as an canal bookkeeper. He lives there with his wife Martha, his step-daughter Jane and on the night of the census there is a visitor Emma Eliza Brook.
James and Mary Wheatley live at Number 8 along with Elizabeth and James Nuttall, Mary’s children from her previous marriage. James and Mary have a daughter together, 6 year old Margaret. Mary Blacklead, Mary’s sister is also living with the family. Both James and Elizabeth are steam loom weavers.
Living at the other property at Number 8 is Richard Thomas, a joiner and his wife Elizabeth. Like some of other households they have a lodger, 19 year old Anna Jacques, who it appears is working as a waitress.
By the latter end of the 19th century, it appears that the slum housing in Bradley Street is no longer occupied as domestic properties with the exception of Number 8, which despite almost being a century old at this point is home to Frederick G. Pennock, a 26 year old labourer in a lead works. Although it is crossed through on the census form, we can see that his 25 year old wife Mary is a cotton winder in a mill. They have two young children also, Sarah aged 5 and John age 3.
Bradley Street Today
It is remarkable that these buildings survived the clearances of the 20th century, considering they were never intended to be lasting architectural creations. They were given a Grade II listed status relatively late in 1984 and at the time of listing they were in a poor condition and a state of disrepair.
Fortunately in 1987 Manchester City Council expanded the zones on their Stevenson Square Conservation area to include Bradley Street and also the houses on Lever Street. In 1996 the buildings were stripped apart for conservation and partly reconstructed so that they could be utilised once more, as elegant office space in the 21st century city.
These are extremely rare listed buildings on a national scale. For over 220 years they have stood the tests of time and they stand proudly as a silent tribute to the ordinary, working class people of the 18th and 19th centuries, who powered the industrial revolution and shaped the world we know today.
- Census Records – http://www.ancestry.co.uk
- Old Photographs & Information about listed buildings – http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk
- Robert Southey’s Quote – ‘Portrait of Manchester’ by Michael Kennedy (London: Robert Hale & Co.,1970) p.50
- ‘Manchester’s Northern Quarter: The Greatest Meer Village’ by Simon Taylor and Julian Holder (with Manchester City Council and English Heritage) (Swindon: English Heritage, 2008) pp. 23-27